Birther madness

BIRTHER MADNESS…. Like Adam Serwer, I simply assumed the nuts who questioned President Obama’s citizenship would pick some new cause after the inauguration. During the campaign, they had a stronger incentive — characterize Obama as “the other” and somehow “less American.” But after Obama won — and well after the release of his birth certificate and local newspaper’s birth announcement — the silly little right-wing crusade lost its salience.

Or so I thought.

Limbaugh, of course, is obsessed, but so is CNN’s Lou Dobbs, who’s not only spouting this nonsense on a nearly daily basis, but started to call the president “undocumented” on the air yesterday, before pulling back slightly. The absurd Birther bill in Congress continues to pick up support from right-wing lawmakers, including Rep. John Campbell (R) of California, who appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” yesterday to defend the proposal. (Chris Matthews held up the birth certificate on screen before telling Campbell, “What you’re doing is appeasing the nutcases…. [Y]ou’re verifying the paranoia out there.”)

But what really irked me was Liz Cheney who, believe it or not, was on CNN again this week. This time, she told Larry King that the Birthers’ efforts are Obama’s fault. Asked if she believes this nonsense, Cheney said:

“I think that the Democrats have got more crazies than the Republicans do. But setting that aside, I think that — you know, one of the reasons I think you see people so concerned about this, I think that, you know, this issue is people are uncomfortable with having, for the first time ever, I think, a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas. […]

“I’m saying that people are fundamentally uncomfortable, I think, increasingly uncomfortable with an American president who seems to be afraid to defend America.”

Salon‘s Joan Walsh noted, “I’ve debated Cheney, so I know she’ll do anything from rudely interrupting to lying to make her point, but even I expected her to take King’s opportunity to distinguish her brand of Republicanism from the hooligans who run with the Birthers. But she didn’t. Wow. The GOP keeps coughing up younger, supposedly more compelling, ‘new’ leadership, from Sarah Palin to Mark Sanford to, now, Liz Cheney — and they keep making clear they’re not ready for prime time. It’s remarkable.”

As for the larger issue, whether they realize it or not, Birthers are probably doing themselves far more harm than good. Sure, they’re ginning up some excitement among confused activists who don’t know better, but they’re also making it seem as if the president’s most aggressive detractors are stark raving mad.

Michael Medved, a leading far-right voice, recently referred to the Birthers as “the worst enemy of the conservative movement.” He added, “It makes us look weird. It makes us look crazy. It makes us look demented. It makes us look sick, troubled, and not suitable for civilized company.”

That, apparently, won’t deter them.